By Paul Evans
Chin raised, the princess drank her visage from the looking glass. She beheld hair of tied golden flax that released calculated curls, framing her sculpted features. Ruby lips parted around straight teeth of whitest ivory; and a petite nose nestled beneath intense eyes of emerald green.
“Beautiful,” she exhaled.
Her enchantment was broken by the entrance of a serf into the chamber, preceded by a cursory knock.
“You’re late,” he announced with unguarded ire, and departed as quickly as he had arrived.
* * * *
A patient crowd had formed close to a food vendor in the sun-forged shade of the immaculate castle. Multiple towers bore sub-spires that would have dwarfed the largest cathedral (had one have been constructed nearby). The design was testament to defence against bygone weaponry, but remained unarguably breathtaking in its majesty. Portcullis and drawbridge were as welcomingly accessible as they had been in living memory, and would probably not have closed if required to do so.
Princess Lovely followed the serf to the orderly queue of cheering plebeians to grant them audience. They had congregated from the known lands and were clearly overjoyed to see her. Such a reaction nourished her soul. With practiced smile, her image was immortalised next to countless children, some of whom had (been) dressed in imitations of her famous gown of blue and gold.
Unnoticed by those beneath, a lone cloud approached overhead.
Caitlin Fox (eight summers) returned to her family, admiring the Princess’s signature on the parchment she had brought for such an opportunity.
“Wow honey,” exclaimed her father with gusto. “You’ve met Princess Lovely! How was that?”
The Princess was already posing with the next admirer as she caught the girl’s response:
“She’s older than she looks in the film.”
With frozen smile, the Princess flashed a glance at the serf, Mister Brown, who had also heard the exclamation. As the cloud settled over the castle, Brown withdrew a mobile telephone and made a brief call. The balance of power had apparently shifted.
* * * *
“No-one is questioning your years of loyal service to The Park Mrs Lopez.”
“Miss!” the woman corrected in a violent hiss.
“But The Park is a world-class attraction with a reputation for upholding the highest standards and making dreams come true. HR has been directed that you be relieved of your position as Princess Lovely.”
The long-broken heart clenched; the suit continued:
“I’m glad you understand. In recognition of your extraordinary longevity with us, I’d like to offer you an alternative position, but we understand if you wish to opt for early release under the terms of your contract …”
This was the fifth time she had been dismissed from the role. It would be hers again. The only thing that concerned Sabrina Lopez was that the frequency of dismissals seemed to be increasing.
* * * *
“Morning Sabrina!” gushed her young successor, Mindy Thomas, as she whooshed into their shared dressing room, adorned in her trademark gown.
Lopez removed the remnants of a face pack, wiping a darkly congealed crust from her cheeks and forehead, looking distinctly out of character in her Queen Evil attire.
“You look beautiful!” oozed Thomas, momentarily furrowing a ‘v’ between her eyebrows in a look of semi-believable sincerity. But Lopez took satisfaction from the fact that the lines in her face had noticeably receded – almost magically – overnight.
“Let’s do this gorgeous!”
* * * *
That afternoon, Mindy Thomas was arrested on the discovery of a dead child in her downtown apartment. The nine year old girl’s cadaver lacked a heart; deemed to be the result of an occult ceremony from the associated paraphernalia at the crime scene. Throughout the lands town criers would later announce that the princess would be poisoned until dead. The Park needed a replacement Princess Lovely more than a Queen Evil; luckily there was candidate who fit the role immediately …
* * * *
Shift complete, the restored Princess picked her way through the closing Park. Legions of cleaners blasted away humanity’s foul footprint with hoses and refuse bags.
Pulling forward the cloak’s hood to obscure her features, Lopez navigated her way towards the ‘Togetherness’ area of The Park; a quarter extolling the values of global unity and acceptance. Pausing to check that she was not observed, she entered the service area of ‘The World’s not as Big as You Think’: a slow boat ride around stereotypical representations of the world’s more famous countries, to a repetitively sentimental soundtrack.
The attraction was agreeably silent. Moving quietly, she picked her way towards an inconspicuous tree. Reaching forward, her fingers hooked into jagged bark – betraying its realism in a copse of artificial flora – and ripped a strip from the trunk.
The coarse wood parted to reveal a black watery eye at chest level, staring imploringly. Without remorse, Lopez tore at the bark until the eye wept. Ceasing her maiming, she withdrew a vial and collected the precious dark elixir to maintain her youth.
To reciprocate, she fed the tree another heart, plunging the small red muscle into the roots.
Suddenly, she was bathed in light.
“Don’t move Lopez! FBI!”
Hissing like a cat, Lopez moved to run, but her feet were trapped in thick accumulated resin: the tears of a score of slaughtered children.
Special Agent Prince’s investigation exonerated Miss Mindy Thomas, and they all lived happily ever after (excluding Sabrina Lopez whose desire for fame and notoriety was briefly fulfilled).